published Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Dying Dream: GOP hostile to immigrant relief bill


• The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would provide a path to legal residency for eligible youths and young adults who are in the country illegally.

• It would give conditional non-immigrant status to people under age 30 who were 15 or younger when they came to the United States, who have lived here for at least the last five years and who have obtained a high school diploma or the equivalent.

• After 10 years, people who successfully complete at least two years of post-secondary education or military service and maintain good moral character would be given unconditional status.

• Those who fail to meet the requirements would revert to unauthorized status.

Source: Migration Policy Institute, S. 3992


• 726,000 young adults immediately are eligible for conditional legal status.

• 114,000 with at least associate degrees will be eligible for permanent status after after six years.

• 934,000 now under 18 will age into eligibility if they earn a high school diploma or GED.

• 489,000 persons ages 18-34 don't qualify because they lack a diploma or GED.

Source: Migration Policy Institute

Gaby woke up Dec. 18 with great hopes that something would happen that day to change her life and those of thousands of others across the country.

The U.S. Senate was going to vote on the Dream Act, a bill to legalize the immigration status of children brought by into the country illegally by their parents.

The U.S. House had approved the bill, 216-198, on Dec. 8. Senate approval would send the bill to President Barack Obama, who supported the legislation.

Gaby, a Calhoun, Ga. resident who asked to be identified only by her first name because she fears deportation, was brought to the United States when she was 12 and would benefit from the bill.

She turned on her computer, lit a votive candle and prayed to God that a miracle would happen.

She listened as a vote to cut off a Republican filibuster and move the bill to the Senate floor for passage failed 55-41, essentially killing the controversial legislation for the year.

Holding out hope

Youth here illegally remain hopeful.

The problem is they don't know how much longer they can wait.

"Whatever they do [in Congress] I have to continue fighting here," said Abril, a Chattanooga teen also here illegally who asked that her full name not be used. "I can't sit around and not do anything."

She's trying to save money so she can enroll at Chattanooga State Community College. Gaby, 20, is paying her way in an area technical college.

People who are in the country illegally can enroll in college, but they don't get any financial aid or government-subsidized loans. They also can't get a driver's license or a job -- at least not legally.

Gaby, who wants to work in hospitality management, said she has faith because God has a plan.

"There's a light inside me that I can never let be extinguished, a light that I have to keep alive," she wrote in a letter she posted on Facebook after the vote.

With Republicans in charge of the House now and having greater strength in the Senate, advocates say there's little chance the Dream Act will even be brought up for a vote.

But David Morales, spokesman for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said, "We have a very large, organized and motivated base of young men and women that continue to work for a positive outcome. We are confident it will pass eventually; ethically and economically it is the right thing to do."


Roy Beck, executive director of the immigrant-reduction nonprofit Numbers USA, said the Dream Act failed because it lacked enforcement mechanisms.

"It gave an amnesty for a problem created by major lawbreaking and did nothing to stop the lawbreaking," he said. "These students are here in their predicament because the government allowed their parents to hold jobs for years and years."

Democrats would have had a better chance of passing the bill if they had addressed it earlier, said Dalton State College political science professor Ken Ellinger.

"The Democrats had just gotten a resounding defeat in the midterm elections. So clearly, Democrats who would have won by very narrow margins, I think, feared that on the heels of health care reform and the stimulus ... this would be the thing that pushed them over the edge and make them lose in 2012," he said.

"They should have fought for it and made it a front-burner issue earlier than a lame-duck session of Congress," he added. "On the other hand, they were focused on health care reform for so long, I'm sure none of them thought it would drag as long as it did."

But Ellinger added that even had Democrats tried earlier to pass the bill, he doubted it would pass because of the political climate.


While slightly more than 2.1 million people could be eligible to apply for legal status under the legislation, the Migration Policy Institute said far fewer are likely to gain permanent, or even conditional, status because of the bill's education requirements.

Applicants must complete at least a two years in a higher education institution or serve two years in the military to move from conditional to permanent residency.

"We estimate that roughly 38 percent of potential beneficiaries -- 825,000 people -- would likely obtain permanent legal status through the Dream Act's education and military routes, while as many as 62 percent would likely fail to do so," according to the institute.

Georgia is among the top 10 states for potential beneficiaries and among the top five with the highest share of people ages 5 to 34 among its Hispanic population, according to the institute's estimates.

Abril, 18, was brought to America at age 2. She dreams of joining the military, but said it's hard to remain hopeful that the Dream Act ever will pass.

Neither Gaby nor Abril believes she can go back to her native Mexico, a country ravaged by drug violence -- more than 30,000 people have died since late 2006 in battles among drug cartels and the government.


Beck, with Numbers USA, said the likelihood of the Dream Act even coming up this upcoming session is basically nonexistent unless it's part of a compromise.

"Rather than a standalone amnesty, which it was before, it would be a much narrower-crafted amnesty, part of a compromise," he said.

• That might include mandatory use of E-verify, a federal program employers can use to verify the legal status of newly hired workers;

• Do away with what he referred to as "chain migration," or Dream Act beneficiaries eventually being able to bring their parents to the United States and the parents' other immediate family members;

• And it might also mean changing birthright citizenship, which defines everyone born in the United States as a citizen, whether their parents are legally present or not. That would require amending the U.S. Constitution.

But overall, said Ellinger, "the Dream has probably died, at least for the next two years."

Follow Perla Trevizo on Twitter

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Wilder said...


Quoting Perla: "Neither Gaby nor Abril believes she can go back to her native Mexico, a country ravaged by drug violence -- more than 30,000 people have died since late 2006 in battles among drug cartels and the government."

Quoting The US State Dept: If you deduct the gangland related murders from the statistics, visiting Mexico is safer than visiting most US cities. New Orleans, the most dangerous city in the US, is about 3 times more dangerous than TJ.

Mexico has a murder rate of about 17 per 100,000 nationwide. Although that is about three times that of the U.S. it doesn't even rank among dangerous nations, such as the murder leader El Salvador with 71 per 100,000.

If you remove the homicide victims that are directly related to the cartel activities the murder rate in Mexico is just slightly higher than that of the U.S.

January 23, 2011 at 1:10 a.m.
fairmon said...

The dream act was a poorly written bill that lacked enforcement processes. It was diluted with the extended family accommodation. It is another "spending bill" this country cannot afford. It is a complex issue and those in the described situation tugs at peoples heart. There are more situations that could be described that alienate and make people angry. These situations result from the federal governments dismal failure to control and protect our borders for many years.

Enforcing current laws and more aggressive action against those employing illegal and undocumented immigrants would reduce and possibly stop the flow of illegal entry. Any individual or employer of an illegal should experience a significant fine and if flagrant be imprisoned. Hispanics are the largest group but not the only source of illegal immigrants.

The article hi-lites some unfortunate situations. However, An issue not addressed and seldom mentioned is the high number of illegals connected to the Mexican drug cartels. A war the U.S. is losing is the war on drugs. The cartels have a major distribution network in many cities across America.

January 23, 2011 at 5:57 a.m.
ceeweed said...

The left see these illegals as a potential future voting block, the right see them as a massive labor pool to be exploited. Strange bed fellows? Indeed.

January 23, 2011 at 7:43 a.m.
clinthardwood said...

We cannot absorb the failures of every country. Importing poverty to the tune of millions a year will drive this country under. The combination of shipping skilled jobs oversees and importing the unskilled is absurd.

January 23, 2011 at 8:30 a.m.
Wilder said...

What is absurd about this, is that Perla can find more criminal felons to interview than Carter has little liver pills, and the authorities don't care. What would happen if she were interviewing bank robbers, child molesters, or rapist?

January 23, 2011 at 9:18 a.m.
dcwusmc said...

Perla, it's not just Pubbies who are against ILLEGALS coming into this country and whose very first act is to violate the laws concerning our borders. It is also an Independent like me (and MANY) others. My wife's an immigrant, as is her son. We jumped through every hoop there is to get her green card. We're still going through the hoops for my stepson. I righteously resent people like you who want people who are here ILLEGALLY to be forgiven their crimes and fast-tracked for residency and citizenship. You are nothing but a shill for criminals who need to GO HOME to their own countries and, if not caught on the way out, get in line like EVERYONE ELSE who wants to come here by FOLLOWING THE RULES.

Yes, it's a pity that your (apparent) countrywomen were brought here as children, but now that they're grown, they can, ALL ON THEIR OWN, go home and try entering the LEGAL way. I have ZERO sympathy for line-cutters and those here illegally, period. Just as I would have zero sympathy for someone in my house illegally. My country equals my house and ANYONE entering through the back window instead of the front door deserves whatever befalls him or her. I might shake my head and think it a pity that someone died of thirst in the desert or got shot for trespassing on private property, but it would, ultimately, be his or her own illegal actions which got him/her dead. Along with the encouragement of enablers like you, which puts their blood on YOUR head. If they stayed home and worked on righting the wrongs in their own country, ALL of humanity would ultimately benefit. But no, folks like YOU put them over your own countrymen and women, making things harder on all of us.

Thanks for nothing.

January 24, 2011 at 1:51 a.m.
jpo3136 said...

Thanks to Newt Gingrich and 1990s Republican laws, there are no rules which allow most people to come here legally.

As a Soldier, these days I could not take a bride to the US as my mother was brought here. Republicans and their prejudice have shut out people based on two ideas: cultural fear of foreigners and the promotion of international trade deals.

Time and again, we hear the argument that these people are in the US "illegally." Well, take a look at it: how are they to legally and lawfully obtain entry into the US? It's nearly impossible.

It's nearly impossible to enter the US legally, to stay, because we made it that way. This occurred during the mid-90s, with the Republican Congress.

Take a look at our asylum laws. They have become a closed door to people honestly needing our help. Our importation of immigrants? Under a quota style system, which does not favor people who do not appear to be "good for the economy." Well, what does good for the economy mean?

Meanwhile, look who we send to fight our wars. Look who we send to work in jobs which require labor. Look who we ridicule and insult, as though we sit on a couch of superiority.

It's in our ideals to treat people as equals, not insult them because they didn't get a sheet of paper signed in advance.

How do trade deals figure in?

If people can come to the US in a glut, as they often used to, then the market's population can shift radically and rapidly. Massive changes in population can destabilize risk assessments for financial gambles, which is most of what Wall Street is selling nowadays. Other lucrative contracts, like NAFTA, depend on the idea that certain citizenship boundaries will be respected.

Look at China's massive communities outside of Toronto, for instance. We have over 90,000 Communist Chinese in Toronto's "Markham" township in the technology industry. Why? Because NAFTA lets them get that close. Their business? Apple, IBM, Intel: Markham Toronto is Canada's Silicon Valley. It's main product? Hooking up New Yorker businessmen with Chinese tech companies that use underpaid workers to churn out the next gizmo for profit.

Want people to come to the US legally? Undo those Byzantine and backwards Newt Gingrich laws which prevent people from doing what's right. Allow immigration to the US. And, when they get here, don't make people wait five to seven years to take the test to stay. Let them take it within a year.

Stop deluding yourselves into thinking that Republicans did anything other than cut off and permanently stop real immigration to the US in the 1990s. We're aware of what they did. Look at the law. Remember the change which took place when they acted out of greed, bigotry and fear. Look at what their policies have gotten us: the commercial equivalent of the Berlin Wall.

Legalize the immigration process.

January 24, 2011 at 9:57 a.m.
dcwusmc said...

jpo3136... NO nation wishing to remain autonomous has EVER ALLOWED unrestricted immigration, ever. Those that have, have not remained autonomous for long. They have been overrun and conquered by the hordes swarming over their unprotected borders. Either borders, like the locked doors on your house, mean something and you CONTROL WHO ENTERS or you get overrun and become a footnote in history.

Do you lock your doors at night or when you go out? If so, with your attitude toward our borders, I have to ask "WHY?" If you are so willing to give unrestricted access to our COUNTRY, why not the same to your house?

D.C. Wright USMC Retired

January 24, 2011 at 1:06 p.m.
oatka said...

Liberals are interesting. Even rather simple three-syllable words are so complex that they avoid them like the plague.

Words like “illegal”.

The Dream Act = AMNESTY. Apparently another tricky three-syllable word.

I find it amusing that so many of these teary articles read like the opening pages of a romance novel (according to my wife).

Note to reporter: It doesn't work. If you're trying to get on the liberals' party "A-List" though, it will work like a champ. They are great practicioners of intellectual incest.

January 24, 2011 at 5:11 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

DCW, listen to yourself. I didn't say, "unrestricted access."

I said, that there is no practical lawful access. Read the post.

Although, in light of how horrifying you find it, I think I would like to advocate a completely free and open border just to horrify people like you.

"Tomorrow, the United States will be open for five minutes." --The Terminal.

While some may fear some hoard of people who will "overrun our borders", the reality is that we let you and your kind in.

If the policies that we have in place today were in place a hundred years ago, many "swarming" "hoards" like the Irish, the Germans, and the Scots would not have gotten in?

What is this? Some "yellow scare" of the 19th Century? Did HUAC not blacklist enough Communist infiltrators for a lifetime?

The Dream Act is the right thing to do. "Amnesty" and asylum are the right thing to do. Being afraid of people because they are from someplace else is a bunch of uneducated nonsense. Maintaining economic policies that exploit ethnic prejudices by recruiting support for border control laws that the semi-literate do not consult or understand is below standard.

We should offer immigrant relief because it is the gentlemanly thing to do. It's what's right, and it's what was offered to many of us.

Don't be afraid of people just because they are from someplace else. We are, too.

January 24, 2011 at 10:24 p.m.
raysun said...

dcwusmc has the best perspective on this issue. Priority should be given to those who come here legally.The politicians need to get their act together and legalize the immigration process so that it can be controlled, and then strictly enforce it. Legal immigrants who serve in the U.S. military and their families should be given special consideration in gaining citizenship as recognition for their service. Instead the current system benefits those who come here illegally and punishes those who follow the legal process. Case in point...I would be interested to know how much Gaby pays for attending technical school. If she comes here legally on a travel or student visa, she will pay out-of-state tuition rates which in Tennessee is 4 to 5 times the resident rate. A foreign student holding a legal student visa also cannot attend public schools (pre-collegiate level). Illegal immigrant children on the other hand enroll easily in public schools and use public health facilities. No wonder so many come here illegally. The current immigration enforcement is a mess and is totally unfair to those immigrants who are trying to follow the law.

January 24, 2011 at 11 p.m.
dcwusmc said...

jpo3136, did you read my FIRST post? My WIFE'S an immigrant. I've BEEN through the hoops. We're still going through them for my stepson. Immigrants, as such, are NOT the problem. People here ILLEGALLY are the problem. I welcome immigrants, just as I welcome guests in my home...IF they come to the FRONT DOOR for admission. If someone tries to break in through the back, well, that's one of the reasons I keep a shotgun. On a national level, it's why we have Ports of Entry and a Border Patrol. What about that troubles you?

By the way, a number of my ancestors were on the Mayflower, here from the beginning.

January 25, 2011 at 12:43 a.m.
please login to post a comment

Other National Articles

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.